Let’s Have a ‘Web 3.0’ Conference

26 May ’06

The controversy over CMP Media’s cease-and-desist letter over use of the term ‘Web 2.0’ is spreading like wildfire. And well it should. As many have now said, the move is poor judgment on just so many levels. Let’s count them. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the founders of a conference earlier this month on Web 2.0. The phrase attracted enough enmity before this debacle – the geekworld will quickly abandon it now, I suspect).

First, there’s the effort (without any trace of irony, it appears) to restrict and monopolize the use of the term in connection with events held to educate and evangelize … a set of technologies that are about collaboration, sharing and open access to information.

Next, there’s the threat against a non-profit, of all things, innocently trying to do nothing more than make the world a better place.

Then there’s the attempt to put the toothpaste back in the tube with a strong dose of deceptive corporate-speak that is the very antithesis of Web 2.0.

Next, there is the effort to portray themselves as an innocent victim by claiming they are legally required to issue a cease-and-desist (the “pity me, I have no choice but to be evil” defence), deceptively ignoring the fact that it was their initial choice to register the mark, intending when they registered it to later protect it and send cease-and-desist letters in defence of it, that brought them to this moment. Their choice, mind, a choice for which they bear responsibility that they are now seeking to avoid.

And finally, as Paul notes, there’s the original effort to monopolize the use of a term that is clearly generic and descriptive (whether or not it was first coined five years ago). The O’Reilly folks gamely try to deflect this one by claiming that what they are doing is a ‘standard business practice’. Bleh – another attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the decision to monopolize use of a descriptive, generic term.

Much of this was already brought to you by Mathew, Paul, Rex, Shel and Rick (a two-fer, here and here), and I expect we’ll be seeing more of this on techmeme later today. There would be more, I suspect, but many will be fearful of speaking out and losing juicy speaking opportunities at O’Reilly events in the future (Rick says this is about brand, and that’s probably right too, but dollars-to-donuts a lot of would-be critics are biting their tongue because O’Reilly is one big stop on the road to fame and glory).

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